A Q&A with Crystal Miceli, Vice President of Products
Q: Don't companies have enough data now in existing systems to know how customers feel without asking with an NPS survey?
A: Anyone who has worked in a large enterprise knows two things for sure 1) there is an abundance of data and 2) laying your hands on the data that you need to make decisions is a real pain point. As the head of Product Management at a software company, I need to know if the perception of my products is improving or not, and what specifically I can place next on my product roadmap to delight my existing customers and attract new ones. My team needs to make very granular choices about how product features should work, what they should look like, how they should be navigated, what they should be named, how they should be priced - the list goes on. I want to know when someone has had a bad experience so I can reach out directly and learn more about what caused pain so I can prioritize development team efforts.
Don’t get me wrong: I have data. Lots of data. I can use product telemetry to tell me what parts of my product are used most frequently, how long someone spends on a view, how many people log in and for how long, and which times of day they are most active with each part of an application. I can see the types of support tickets being logged. I can track the number of submitted defects. I have a system where customers can submit enhancement ideas. I know how much we are able to generate in sales and revenues for each product.
And yet, I still use an NPS program. It's one of the most important tools in my box. Why is this? Because product NPS is the single best indicator to tell me on an aggregate level and individually which customers are happy and which aren't - triggering my team to close the loop with meaningful engagement to drill into the feedback and create action plans. I can combine NPS scores with customer attributes and see if there's a difference in satisfaction based on industry, geography, use case or other factors so I can target the product enhancements that will have the greatest impact in alignment with our corporate strategy. I can target which customers to bring into early access programs to help direct our agile product lifecycle. NPS cuts through the noise of big data and helps me chart the path forward. There's still more I could do. I'd rate my own organization at stage 3.5 maturity with our current NPS program, and I'm already looking forward to the next stage.
Q: What is your advice in starting an NPS program?
A: Start with the end in mind. By clearly articulating the goal of your program, you can ensure that your initial steps don’t preclude you from getting to the state of maturity you hope to achieve. Work backwards from your goal to identify the first steps that will help you get there. Test, refine and expand over time. Identify the functions that will benefit most from the customer insights and recruit them as part of the development of the NPS program from the beginning. It’s easier to bring them with you as champions from the beginning who have input into the plan than it will be to push it to them after it’s fully operational. Getting their buy-in early will help you with the single biggest obstacle you will face - adoption. When a customer gives you their time and energy to provide feedback, this is a gift. Thank them for it and let them know how important they are to you. Close the loop to ensure that feedback doesn’t go into a black hole but instead is being actioned tactically and strategically. Let the customer know what you are doing differently because of their input. There is no better way to gain loyalty than this, even from detractors. When you see results, you need to become a storyteller to the rest of the business. Drill into the insights that you’ve collected to drive improvements into the business and shout about the outcomes from the mountaintops. It’s easier to gain adoption (and value for your program) with stories than it is with graphs. Stories stick.
Q: What is your point of view on company NPS vs. functional?
A: Points of view differ on this subject, but I am in favor of both. The top level corporate NPS indicates loyalty to the brand. It can be a little less actionable because the feedback could be about anything: the products, the customer service, a recent poor experience, etc. The importance of drilling into any supplemental open-ended feedback and following up with promoters, neutrals and detractors is even more important at the company level than when you collect NPS at the functional level so you can drive specific action to positively affect future scores. It’s a good health metric overall though, and shouldn’t be disregarded. If you can collect NPS in the moment - whether during or just after a purchase, while using a product, following a customer service interaction or other touchpoints - this gives you greater insight into how each function is performing as part of the whole. I like to see both so I can understand what is contributing to the reputation of the brand overall.
Q: Has the importance of NPS changed with the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: One of the first things that happened during quarantine was my inbox being bombarded with emails and surveys from every company with whom I had done business. They wanted to know how I was feeling, what I wanted from them during the tumultuous time. They really wanted to know if I would keep buying under the changed circumstances. It was overwhelming at a time when I was worried about health, family and work, not how to help a national company get more of my business. To avoid the noise, I unsubscribed entirely from the brands that I didn’t have a vested interest in. This experience is anecdotal, of course, but I’ve heard similar feedback from my recent interactions with industry experts and analysts. The reaction of brands to the COVID-19 crisis was overwhelming to many customers, and the unintended consequence was reduced access to customers at a time when it was needed most.
The movement of all customer experiences to a digital format will have a lasting impact on the way companies operate well into the future. Successful brands will find ways to engage in an unobtrusive way with their customers to get the needed insights to inform the choices they make about those experiences - when they can no longer rely upon the in-person touch. As a low-investment, but insightful measure of customer loyalty that can be easily embedded into the customer journey, NPS can be leveraged by CX teams to make improvements that will help brands stand out - without adding to the noise and complexity of our changing landscape.
About Crystal Miceli
Crystal Miceli is Vice President, Head of Product Management at Vision Critical. She leads the team responsible for product strategy, roadmap, pricing, packaging, and advocacy for world-class customer experience management (CXM) products that create exceptional value for Vision Critical customers. Crystal has over 25 years of technology leadership in business strategy, engineering, sales, product marketing, professional services, and customer success. She is a veteran of CA Technologies, BMC Software, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Previously, Crystal was Chief of Staff at Vision Critical where she was responsible for global initiatives encompassing sales, finance, R&D, marketing, customer success, and employee experience. She also managed the global sales operations and employee enablement teams. Crystal received her BS in computing and technology from Tulane University and her MBA from Louisiana State University. Connect with Crystal